Being mocked is one thing (of thousands) that tends to disturb me. My sister used to do it constantly to me when we were small until she successfully made me cry. It’s bad enough when humans do it. But when it comes down to being mocked by the animal kingdom, I have to take a stand.
I am very proud of the avocado tree in my back yard. The first house I ever lived in had an avocado tree in the back yard, and being able to repeat that was a primary selling point when we bought this house. A little nostalgia of the first two years of my life, about which I remember nothing.
Almost every year, the avocado tree produces more fruit that two men can handle. In the summer we are both hauling bags of them into work and distributing them to willing takers. One year the avocado tree produced nothing. It was the same year that our dog-beating psychotic former next door neighbor cut down his avocado tree (which was bigger than ours). It was also a hurricane year, so I don’t know if our tree just missed its partner, or was damaged by the storm.
But now it’s back and budding like crazy.
Unfortunately, so are the squirrels.
In the summertime, I come home every day to avocados on the ground that had been half-gnawed away by those nasty rodents. Yes, I said squirrels are nasty rodents. Shave a squirrel’s tail, and you’ve got a rat. Don’t tell me they’re cute. They’re not. They carry disease just like rats do. And they are smarter than rats, but still not too smart. But they are smug. And greedy and selfish and wasteful. Hey squirrel, if you want to have an avocado, go ahead, but eat the whole damned thing. Don’t leave it on the ground for me to pick up after working 8 long hours.
They don’t listen to me. In fact, they mock me. I’ll be collecting the damaged produce, and there will be two or three squirrels in the tree and on the electrical wires all laughing at me. I throw rocks. I never hit them. And in the interim, I can only stew.
Recently, I remembered a friend of mine from high school who used to shoot squirrels out of his grapefruit tree with a BB gun. And that sounded like a great idea to me.
At first I tried a slingshot. I try my best not to look like an NRA member. Although I got closer to hitting a squirrel and was sure that I one day would, the slingshot broke after owning it for a week. Then I tried a pellet gun, but it was a pistol and was not the least bit accurate. Plus it would only irritate the squirrel if I hit it, not kill it.
Go ahead. Send PETA after me. Let them pour blood all over me. But they won’t get any free avocados from me if they do. I’d had enough.
I was more than pleased to find out that you can buy a BB gun at Walmart without even showing identification. No 3-day waiting period, nothing. So other Bill and I picked one up, and we brought it home and started target shooting a tin can on the other side of the yard. The gun was very accurate, and so was I. I hope people will be startled to find out to find out that there are gay men in the world who know how to use a gun. I used to have a .22 and a shotgun when I lived in the woods. And I’m a damned good shot. That’s right, I’m tough.
So in no time I was picking off one or two a day of those little rat-bastards. I enjoyed watching them plunge to their deaths from my tree. It only took one shot, and they were instantly dead, so it was very clean. I’d load them into an old plastic grocery bag and toss them into the big can in the alley.
My hope was that it would get around in the greater squirrel community that my avocado tree was not one to be messed with, because there was a deranged homosexual with a gun down on the ground below it. Satisfied, at the end of avocado season, I was convinced that next year there would be a banner crop.
Several years ago my mother gave me a squirrel-proof bird feeder. For some reason it only prohibited Virginia squirrels from getting into it. When I lived there, I never saw a squirrel even near it. It was always full of jays and cardinals and mockingbirds and finches in the spring and summer.
The feeder is basically just cage wide enough for birds’ heads to get through. Inside is a core of sunflower seeds, held in snugly with a tight wire mesh. The feeder did not work the same when I finally put it up in Florida. For the first few weeks, we enjoyed the hungry fowl pecking out the sunflower seeds, and the dog just loved it. She would put down her mai-tai and stub out her cigarette and climb up to the window and wag her stump and growl.
In no time I noticed that the feeder had to be refilled every other day. There must have been some kind of bird action going on during the day while I was at work. I noticed that the dog was even cutting back on her cocktails, because she was obviously obsessed with all the activity outside the front window. I was saving hundreds on gin and tequila. I thought she might be going to AA meetings behind my back.
But then I figured it out. I saw a squirrel inside the squirrel-proof bird feeder. He could actually crawl in and curl around the inside and just suck down seeds like the pig he was. I thought it was just a fluke, but then I continued to see it every day. That was it.
So the next time I saw this happen, I put on my camouflage. Dressing the part always gives me the affirmation that I’m doing the right thing. I went outside and pumped up my trusty Daisy five times and slowly crept around the side of the house. I aimed and fired.
The squirrel flew up in the cage and danced around in this horrible seizure-like routine. I couldn’t hear him, but I knew he was thinking, “Ow, ow, ow. What happened? Why am I bleeding? Why can’t I get out of here?”
At this point this redneck homosexual started to freak out. What have I done? I didn’t want it to suffer. I just wanted a quick death. What am I going to do? What am I going to do? Oh GOD!
Naturally Other Bill was watching along, from the inside, horrified. I ran around and came inside from the back of the house.
“Is he dead yet?” I asked Other Bill.
Bill said, “No,” but it sounded like, well duh! As he pointed with his arm, Carol Merrill-style to the unpleasant sight happening on the other side of the living room window. We both stood and watched. The dog went to mix a daiquiri. Finally the squirrel lay still, but he was still breathing.
“I should go shoot it again and put him out of his misery,” I said to Other Bill. He didn’t disagree.
So I grabbed the gun, went outside and shot him point blank in the back of the head. Now it was more like premeditated murder to me. Not some far-away, pick-off shot. I should be locked up, I thought.
To my dismay and utter horror, this still did not kill the squirrel. He continued to breathe. Bill was inside, running in circles, shouting “Ew, ew, ew, EW!”
“What should I do?” I cried. I felt just awful making an animal suffer. Even if it was some rat-bastard.
“I don’t know. Come inside. Watch TV. It’ll die soon enough,” Other Bill urged.
I put on the safety and came inside and flopped down in the couch to enjoy a taped episode of Judge Judy. We love huh.
So after enough people were called “idiots!” on the show, we wandered back into the living room to check on the squirrel. He was still breathing.
“God DAMMIT!” I yelled, “why won’t he die?”
Other Bill had a look on his face as if he had just taken a bite of rotten seafood.
“What should I do? I should go shoot it again,” I said. I took the gun and went out again.
I think I’ll end the details here. You don’t need to know the step-by-steps of putting a bullet into the chest, spine and another one to the back of the head. At some point Other Bill asked me if I wanted to take it to the veterinarian, because maybe it was some kind of mutant non-killable species that should try to be preserved for science.
And you really don’t need to know that I was so horrified, so remorseful, and so guilty that after he finally died, I made Other Bill twist it out of the cage. For moral support, however, I was there, holding the bag open for it. And there’s no need to tell you where some of the squirrel blood landed.
I’ve learned my lesson. I retired the bird feeder, and the gun is under my bed, because the dog can’t get it there. (She can be a mean drunk.) It’s the middle of winter now, which means the squirrels are eating palm nuts these days. They eat millions of them. And that’s fine with me, because if they don’t eat them, they fall to the ground and sprout new palm trees which I have to just pull out of the ground.
It’s a little scary now, because there seem to be more squirrels around now than ever. They gather in groups outside my computer room, chewing on palm nuts, staring at me while I write. More and more squirrels join them and line up on the fence just outside the window.
It reminds me of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. I’m thinking it might be a good idea to stay inside this summer.